Luke 10:25
And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
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(25) And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up.—On the word “lawyer” and its difference from the more generic “scribe,” see Note on Matthew 22:35. Here, as there, the “tempting” does not necessarily imply hostile purpose. It was simply a test-question to see if the new Teacher was sound in His view of the ethical obligations of the Law.

The question, though the same as that of the young man in Matthew 19:16, is not asked in the same tone. There it was asked by one anxiously seeking to inherit eternal life. Here there is a certain tone of self-conscious superiority, which required a different treatment. As the method of Socrates was to make men conscious of their ignorance of the true meaning of words which they repeated glibly, so here our Lord parries the question by another, makes him repeat his own formulated answer—an answer true and divine itself, identical with that which our Lord gave Himself (Matthew 22:37)—and then teaches him how little he had realised its depth and fulness. The commandment was “exceeding broad” above all that the teacher of Israel had imagined.



Luke 10:25 - Luke 10:37

The lawyer’s first question was intended to ‘tempt’ Jesus, which here seems to mean, rather, ‘to test’; that is, to ascertain His orthodoxy or His ability. Christ walks calmly through the snare, as if not seeing it. His answer is unimpeachably orthodox, and withal just hints in the slightest way that the question was needless, since one so learned in the law knew well enough what were the conditions of inheriting life. The lawyer knows the letter too well to be at a loss what to answer. But it is remarkable that he gives the same combination of two passages which Jesus gives in His last duel with the Pharisees {Matthew 22:1 - Matthew 22:46; Mark 12:1 - Mark 12:44}. Did Jesus adopt this lawyer’s summary? Or is Luke’s narrative condensed, omitting stages by which Jesus led the man to so wise an answer?

Our Lord’s rejoinder has a marked tone of authority, which puts the lawyer in his right place. His answer is commended, as by one whose estimate has weight; and his practice is implicitly condemned, as by one who knows, and has a right to judge. ‘This do’ is a sharp sword-thrust. It also unites the two ‘loves’ as essentially one, by saying ‘This’-not ‘these’-’do.’ The lawyer feels the prick, and it is his defective practice, not his question, which he seeks to ‘justify.’ He did not think that his love to God needed any justification. He had fully done his duty there, but about the other half he was less sure. So he tried to ride off, lawyer-like, on a question of the meaning of words. ‘Who is my neighbour?’ is the question answered by the lovely story of the kindly Samaritan.

I. The main purpose, then, is to show how far off men may be, and yet be neighbours.

The lawyer’s question, ‘Who is my neighbour?’ is turned round the other way in Christ’s form of it at the close. It is better to ask ‘Whose neighbour am I?’ than ‘Who is my neighbour?’ The lawyer meant by the word ‘a person whom I am bound to love.’ He wanted to know how far an obligation extended which he had no mind to recognise an inch farther than he was obliged. Probably he had in his thought the Rabbinical limitations which made it as much duty to ‘hate thine enemy’ as to ‘love thy neighbour.’ Probably, too, he accepted the national limitations, which refused to see any neighbours outside the Jewish people.

‘Neighbourhood,’ in his judgment, implied ‘nearness,’ and he wished to know how far off the boundaries of the region included in the command lay. There are a great many of us like him, who think that the obligation is a matter of geography, and that love, like force, is inversely as the square of the distance. A good deal of the so-called virtue of ‘patriotism’ is of this spurious sort. But Christ’s way of putting the question sweeps all such limitations aside. ‘Who became neighbour to’ the wounded man? ‘He who showed mercy on him,’ said the lawyer, unwilling to name the Samaritan, and by his very reluctance giving the point to his answer which Christ wished to bring out. We are not to love because we are neighbours in any geographical sense, but we become neighbours to the man farthest from us when we love and help him. The relation has nothing to do with proximity. If we prove ourselves neighbours to any man by exercising love to him, then the relation intended by the word is as wide as humanity. We recognise that A. is our neighbour when a throb of pity shoots through our heart, and thereby we become neighbours to him.

The story is not, properly speaking, a parable, or imaginary narrative of something in the physical world intended to be translated into something in the spiritual region, but it is an illustration {by an imaginary narrative} of the actual virtue in question. Every detail is beautifully adapted to bring out the lesson that the obligation of neighbourly affection has nothing to do with nearness either of race or religion, but is as wide as humanity. The wounded man was probably a Jew, but it is significant that his nationality is not mentioned. He is ‘a certain man,’ that is all. The Samaritan did not ask where he was born before he helped him. So Christ teaches us that sorrow and need and sympathy and help are of no nationality.

That lesson is still more strongly taught by making the helper a Samaritan. Perhaps, if Jesus had been speaking in America, he would have made him a ; or, if in France, a German; or, if in England, a ‘foreigner.’ It was a daring stroke to bring the despised name of ‘Samaritan’ into the story, and one sees what a hard morsel to swallow the lawyer found it, by his unwillingness to name him after all.

The nations have not yet learned the deep, simple truth of this parable. It absolutely forbids all limitations of mercy and help. It makes every man the neighbour of every man. It carries in germ the great truth of the brotherhood of the race. ‘Humanity’ is a purely Christian word, and a conception that was never dreamed of before Christ had showed us the unity of mankind. We slowly approximate to the realisation of the teaching of this story, which is oftener admired than imitated, and perhaps oftenest on the lips of people who obey it least.

II. Another aspect of the parable is its lesson as to the true manifestations of neighbourliness.

The minutely detailed account of the Samaritan’s care for the half-dead man is not only graphic, but carries large lessons. Compassionate sentiments are very well. They must come first. The help that is given as a matter of duty, without the outgoing of heart, will be worth little, and soon cease to flow; but the emotion that does not drive the wheels of action, and set to work to stanch the sorrows which cause it to run so easily, is worth still less. It hardens the heart, as all feeling unexpressed in action does. If the priest and Levite had gone up to the man, and said, ‘Ah, poor fellow, poor fellow! how sorry we are for you! somebody ought to come and help you,’ and so had trudged on their way, they would have been worse than they are painted as being.

The various acts are enumerated as showing the genius of true love. We notice the swift, cool-headed deftness of the man, his having at hand the appliances needed, the business-like way in which he goes about his kindness, his readiness to expend his wine and oil, his willingness to do the surgeon’s work, his cheerful giving up of his ‘own beast,’ while he plodded along on foot, steadying the wounded man on his ass; his care for him at the inn; his generosity, and withal his prudence, in not leaving a great sum in the host’s hands, but just enough to tide over a day or two, and his wise hint that he would audit the accounts when he came back. This man’s quick compassion was blended with plenty of shrewdness, and was as practical as the hardest, least compassionate man could have been. There is need for organisation, ‘faculty,’ and the like, in the work of loving our neighbour. A thousand pities that sometimes Christian charity and Christian common-sense dissolve partnership. The Samaritan was a man of business, and he did his compassion in a business-like fashion, as we should try to do.

III. Another lesson inwrought into the parable is the divorce between religion and neighbourliness, as shown in the conduct of the priest and Levite.

Jericho was one of the priestly cities, so that there would be frequent travellers on ecclesiastical errands. The priest was ‘going down’ {that is from Jerusalem}, so he could not plead a ‘pressing public engagement’ at the Temple. The verbal repetition of the description of the conduct of both him and the Levite serves to suggest its commonness. They two did exactly the same thing, and so would twenty or two hundred ordinary passers by. They saw the man lying in a pool of blood, and they made a wide circuit, and, even in the face of such a sight, went on their way. Probably they said to themselves, ‘Robbers again; the sooner we get past this dangerous bit, the better.’ We see that they were heartless, but they did not see it. We do the same thing ourselves, and do not see that we do; for who of us has not known of many miseries which we could have done something to stanch, and have left untouched because our hearts were unaffected? The world would be a changed place if every Christian attended to the sorrows that are plain before him.

Let professing Christians especially lay to heart the solemn lesson that there does lie in their very religion the possibility of their being culpably unconcerned about some of the world’s wounds, and that, if their love to God does not find a field for its manifestation in active love to man, worship in the Temple will be mockery. Philanthropy is, in our days, often substituted for religion. The service of man has been put forward as the only real service of God. But philanthropic unbelievers and unphilanthropic believers are equally monstrosities. What God hath joined let not man put asunder. That simple ‘and,’ which couples the two great commandments, expresses their indissoluble connection. Well for us if in our practice they are blended in one!

It is not spiritualising this narrative when we say that Jesus is Himself the great pattern of the swift compassion and effectual helpfulness which it sets forth. Many unwise attempts have been made to tack on spiritual meanings to the story. These are as irreverent as destructive of its beauty and significance. But to say that Christ is the perfect example of that love to every man which the narrative portrays, has nothing in common with these fancies. It is only when we have found in Him the pity and the healing which we need, that we shall go forth into the world with love as wide as His.Luke 10:25-28. And behold, a certain lawyer — A doctor of the law; stood up and tempted him — Greek, εκπειραζων αυτον, trying him. It seems this lawyer was one of the multitude which attended Jesus when the seventy returned, and having listened to what he said to his disciples in private, concerning their enjoying a happiness which many prophets and kings had desired in vain to obtain, namely, the happiness of seeing his miracles, and of hearing his sermons, thought he would make trial of that great wisdom which some said he possessed, by proposing to him one of the most important questions which it is possible for the human mind to examine, namely, What a man must do to inherit eternal life. For, that this learned doctor asked the question, not from a sincere desire to know his own duty, but merely to try our Lord’s knowledge, is evident from the text, which informs us, that he did it tempting, or trying him, expecting, perhaps, that, on this head he would teach differently from Moses. He said unto him, What is written in the law? — Jesus, alluding to his profession, made answer by inquiring of him what the law taught on that point. And he, answering out of Deuteronomy 6:5, said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, &c. — That is, Thou shalt unite all the faculties of thy soul to render him the most intelligent and sincere, the most affectionate and resolute service. We may safely rest in this general sense of these important words, if we are not able to fix the particular meaning of every single word. If we desire to do this, perhaps the heart, which is a general expression, may be explained by the three following; With all thy soul — With the warmest affection; with all thy strength — The most vigorous efforts of thy will; and with all thy mind — Or understanding, in the most wise and reasonable manner thou canst, thy understanding guiding thy will and affections. And thy neighbour as thyself — See on Mark 12:30-31. And he said, Thou hast answered right — Jesus approved of his answer, and allowed, that to love God as the law enjoined is the means of obtaining eternal life, because it never fails to produce obedience to all the divine revelations and commands, consequently even to the gospel, which he was then preaching. Observe well, therefore, reader, our Lord’s words are not spoken ironically, but seriously; and contain a deep and weighty truth. He, and he alone, shall live for ever, who thus loves God and his neighbour in the present life.10:25-37 If we speak of eternal life, and the way to it, in a careless manner, we take the name of God in vain. No one will ever love God and his neighbour with any measure of pure, spiritual love, who is not made a partaker of converting grace. But the proud heart of man strives hard against these convictions. Christ gave an instance of a poor Jew in distress, relieved by a good Samaritan. This poor man fell among thieves, who left him about to die of his wounds. He was slighted by those who should have been his friends, and was cared for by a stranger, a Samaritan, of the nation which the Jews most despised and detested, and would have no dealings with. It is lamentable to observe how selfishness governs all ranks; how many excuses men will make to avoid trouble or expense in relieving others. But the true Christian has the law of love written in his heart. The Spirit of Christ dwells in him; Christ's image is renewed in his soul. The parable is a beautiful explanation of the law of loving our neighbour as ourselves, without regard to nation, party, or any other distinction. It also sets forth the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward sinful, miserable men. We were like this poor, distressed traveller. Satan, our enemy, has robbed us, and wounded us: such is the mischief sin has done us. The blessed Jesus had compassion on us. The believer considers that Jesus loved him, and gave his life for him, when an enemy and a rebel; and having shown him mercy, he bids him go and do likewise. It is the duty of us all , in our places, and according to our ability, to succour, help, and relieve all that are in distress and necessity.A certain lawyer - One who professed to be well skilled in the laws of Moses, and whose business it was to explain them.

Stood up - Rose - came forward to address him.

Tempted him - Feigned a desire to be instructed, but did it to perplex him, or to lead him, if possible, to contradict some of the maxims of the law.

Inherit eternal life - Be saved. This was the common inquiry among the Jews. "They" had said that man must keep the commandments - the written and oral law.

Lu 10:25-37. Question of a Lawyer and Parable of the Good Samaritan.

25. tempted him—"tested him"; in no hostile spirit, yet with no tender anxiety for light on that question of questions, but just to see what insight this great Galilean teacher had.

Ver. 25-28. These four verses would incline one to think that Luke here records the same piece of history which we met with in Matthew 22:35-40, and Mark 12:28-34; See Poole on "Matthew 22:35" and following verses to Matthew 22:40, See Poole on "Mark 12:28" and following verses to Mark 12:34; but neither of those evangelists have the following part of this discourse, which makes me doubtful whether Luke speaks of the same person coming to Christ which the others mention. A lawyer he was, who came to our Saviour upon a design to tempt, that is, to make a trial of him, whether he would deliver any doctrine contrary to the law of Moses. It is plain that he fancied that the eternal life which Christ preached was to be obtained by wing what the law required. Our Saviour agreeth it, that if he did what the law required, according as he himself had given an account of it, he should live. I apprehend no absurdity, to affirm that our Saviour speaks here of living eternally. It is rather absurd to fancy that our Saviour did not answer ad idem, to the thing about which the question was propounded. Neither is salvation impossible because the law in itself could not give life, but because of the weakness of our flesh, so as we cannot fulfil it. So that considering our infirmity, the law serveth to us only as a schoolmaster, to bring us to Christ; and as a mark which we ought to shoot at, though we cannot shoot home; a rule to direct us in our duty, though we cannot perform or fulfil it. And behold a certain lawyer stood up,.... From his seat, having been hearing Christ preach, very likely, in some synagogue; when and where this was, is not certain. The Syriac, Persic, and Ethiopic versions call this man a Scribe; and a lawyer and a Scribe were the same, as appears from Matthew 22:35 compared with Mark 12:28

and tempted him; or tried him whether he understood the law, or whether he would say any thing contrary to it, and see if he could gain any advantage against him, and expose him, and get credit and applause to himself:

saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? the same question as was put by the young ruler in Mark 10:17 for they were both of the same complexion, and upon the same foundation, seeking eternal life by their own works: See Gill on Matthew 19:16.

he said unto him; that is, Jesus, as all the Oriental versions express it.

{8} And, behold, {i} a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?

(8) Faith does not take away but establishes the doctrine of the law.

(i) One of those who proclaimed himself to be learned in the rites and laws of Moses.

Luke 10:25 ff. This transaction is different from the later narrative of Matthew 22:35 ff. (comp. Mark 12:28 ff.). The fact that the same passages of the law are quoted cannot outweigh the difference of time and place, of the point of the question, of the person quoting the passages, and of the further course of the conference. Comp. Strauss, I. p. 650 f., who, however, also holds Matthew and Mark as distinct, and thus maintains three variations of the tradition upon the one subject, viz. that Jesus laid stress on the two commandments as the foremost of the law; while Köstlin, p. 275, supposes that Luke arbitrarily took the question, Luke 10:25, out of its original place in Matthew and Mark, and himself made it the entire introduction to the parable (Luke 10:30 ff.). Comp. Holtzmann: “two independent sections brought by Luke within one frame.”

ἐκπειράζων αὐτόν] προσεδόκησεν παγιδεῦσαι τὸν Χριστὸν εἰς τὸ πάντως ἐπιτάξαι τι ἐναντίον τῷ νόμῳ, Euthymius Zigabenus. As to ἐκπειράζ., to try thoroughly, see on 1 Corinthians 10:9.Luke 10:25-37. The lawyer’s question, and the parable of the good Samaritan. Many critics (even Weiss, Mk.-Evang., p. 400) think that Lk. or his source has got the theme of this section from Matthew 22:35 ff., Mark 12:28 ff., and simply enriched it with the parable of the good Samaritan, peculiar to him. Leaving this critical question on one side, it may be remarked that this story seems to be introduced on the principle of contrast, the νομικός representing the σοφοὶ καὶ συνετοὶ, to whom the things of the kingdom are hidden as opposed to the νήπιοι, to whom they are revealed, i.e., the disciples whom Jesus had just congratulated on their felicity. Similarly in the case of the anecdote of the woman in Simon’s house, Luke 7:36, vide notes there. J. Weiss remarks that this story and the following one about Martha and Mary form a pair, setting forth in the sense of the Epistle of James (Luke 2:8; Luke 2:13-14) the two main requirements of Christianity, love to one’s neighbour and faith (vide in Meyer, ad loc).25-37. The Parable of the Good Samaritan.

. a certain lawyer] A teacher of the Mosaic Law—differing little from a scribe, as the man is called in Mark 12:28. The same person may have had both functions—that of preserving and that of expounding the Law.

tempted him] Literally, “putting Him fully to the test” (Luke 4:12); but the purpose does not seem to have been so deliberately hostile as in Luke 11:54.

what shall I do to inherit eternal life?] See Luke 18:18, and the answer there also given. It is interesting to compare it with the answer given by St Paul after the Ascension, Acts 16:30-31.Luke 10:25. Ἀνέστη, stood up) on purpose that he might question Him.—τί ποιήσας, by doing what) It is just the same as if he were to say: By doing what shall I see the Sun of Righteousness? Nay, it is not by doing but by seeing that He is to be seen: see Luke 10:23. It is to this ποιήσας, doing, that the verb, ποίει, do, in Luke 10:28; Luke 10:37, has reference; just as ζήσῃ, thou shall live, Luke 10:28, refers to ζωὴν, in this verse.Verses 25-37. - The question of the lawyer. The Lord answers with the parable of the good Samaritan. Verse 25. - And, behold, a certain lawyer. It seems (as has already been noticed) probable that in St. Luke's general account of our Lord's teaching during the six months which immediately preceded the last Passover, certain events which took place at a short visit which Jesus paid to Jerusalem at the Feast of the Dedication are noticed. This question of the lawyer was probably asked on the occasion of this visit, and the little episode connected with the Bethany family of Lazarus took place at the same period. The "lawyer" is sometimes termed "scribe." There is little difference between these appellations. They were professional teachers and expounders of the Mosaic Law and of the vast complement of traditional sayings which had gathered round it. As the whole life of the people at this period was ruled and guided by the Law, written and traditional, this profession of scribe and lawyer was an important and influential one. Stood up. The Master was evidently teaching in a house or a courtyard of a house. Many were sitting round him. To attract his attention, this lawyer stood up before putting his question to Jesus. This scene, as we have said, took place most likely in or near Jerusalem, not improbably, as the Bethany episode follows, in that suburb of the city, and perhaps in the house of Lazarus. And tempted him; that is to say, tested him and his skill in answering questions out of that Law which then was the rule and guide of daily life in Israel. It is not unlikely that the lawyer hoped to convict the broad and generous Rabbi of some unorthodox statement which would injure his reputation as a Teacher. It was a hard and comprehensive question, this query how eternal life was to be won, and possibly one carefully prepared by the enemies of Jesus, Lawyer

See on Luke 7:30.


See on temptation, Matthew 6:13.

To inherit

See on inheritance, 1 Peter 1:4.

Eternal (εἰώνιον)

The word will be fully discussed in the second volume.

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